Keep It Simple Bethel’s 1889 High Street Lockup—besides a jail it was a town court room and business meeting place. In the 1890’s annual town reports showed that the Lockup took in enough revenue to cover jail and maintenance expenses with net income for the town’s benefit.




At the 1871 Bethel Town Meeting it was voted to sell the old town hall (on Middle Intervale Road) and to rent Pattee’s Hall on Spring Street for holding town meetings. (The old town meeting hall was auctioned off to Abernathy Grover for $67.)


1888 town meeting: Article 10 read: Propose to build and keep a lockup and raise money for that purpose. This was passed over.


At the 1889 town meeting Article 13 read: To see if the town will vote to provide a suitable building for a town office and lock-up, combined or either separately and raise and appropriate a sum of money for the same. A motion to build a lockup passed but not the provision to build a town office.  (Besides Pattee’s Hall meetings were held at Ideal Hall, in 2014 Opera House Condos and Rialto Hall, on Main Street; it burned in 1898.)


April 1889 news reported that the committee to select a lot and superintend the [lockup] building was Addison E. Herrick (attorney), Cyrus M. Wormell and A. D. Godwin (Wormell and Godwin were deputy sheriffs in Bethel).


They have a contract with Gilbert Tuell to do the carpenter work and with Benjamin Bryant to do the foundation. They have purchased a lot (on High Street) from J. B. Chapman near Rialto Hall.

1890 news reported Bethel: At the annual town meeting in Bethel, the town voted to give H.C. Barker the care of the lock-up and he will be responsible for all money paid for use of the room. It is now to be used for the convenience of any persons who wish to occupy a room for a day’  business, such as referees, committees, etc. as well as holding court for criminal cases.

Town treasurer’s report should that it cost $550 to build (town resource value).

Bethel’s correspondent reporting on the planned use of the lock-up asked the question - Why don’t the Bethel selectmen occupy the (lockup) room for their meetings instead of hiring a room elsewhere? 

 In 1891, the selectmen’s miscellaneous expenses included paying Goodwin R. Wiley $25 for office rent.  Bethel’s correspondent for the Oxford County Democrat, Abial Chandler, Jr., commented in his column, “Why don’t the Bethel selectmen occupy the room for their meetings instead of hiring a room elsewhere?”

The Lock-up Account for 1892 showed the following expenses and income:  paid to H.C. Barker $9.00 for the care of the Lock-Up for 18 courts plus the expense of one cot – total expenses for 1892: $11.00.  The town received $27.00 for renting the Lock-Up for 18 courts and an additional $1.50 rental fee for one auction – making the total income $28.50. For the year of 1892 there was net income of $17.50.

The 1893 Panic and financial crash created large numbers of homeless persons wandering from town to town.

One incident that happened in Bethel was this one: “Nov 3 1893 Advertiser: Seventy five tramps visited Berlin, NH and Gorham last Friday. Being booted out of town they left down the railroad Saturday and Sunday A.M. They made their appearance in Bethel Sunday night. Bethel lockup was overrun with them. Some of them occupied box cars and many took possession of barns laying on the hay in many cases.

Bethel lockup was overrun with them. Two called on L.T. Barker (town clerk who lived on Main Street) for food; he told them the place for them was on High Street known as the lockup. The turnkey at the lockup, H.C. Barker worked like a tiger caring for their wants.

November 1894: For the past week our court room (in the lock-up) has been the liveliest place in the village. One case involved stealing a harness and was tried before Justice Rich. While awaiting a decision, the prisoner went home on bail.

February 1895: Officer Henry C. Barker reported that he had cared for 157 tramps at the Bethel Lock-Up and four female tramps during the last year. He has had 50 prisoners to care for and has also set up and maintained the lock-up’s court room for 19 court cases.

From 1897’s town report:  Aid furnished by H. C. Barker, 143 tramps.. $43.30.  Lockup Account:  Paid out for wood:  $6.50; fixtures and repairs: $3.00

Total expenses:               $(9.50)

Income from 26 courts:     26.00 

Net Income for 1897:   $16.50







Text Box: 1889 Gilead Votes to Build a Lock-Up
On April 24, 1889 the paper reported at the town meeting last Saturday it was voted to build a lock-up in the rear of the town hall. 
The lock-up was built and on July 3, 1891 the news was that “the lock up is all ready for those who want a room.”
And on July 3, 1891, the lock-up gets its first user:
“The lock-up was christened last Saturday by Herbert Cole but by Monday a.m. the window was up showing the bird had flown.”


The Bethel Journals

PO Box 763

Bethel, Maine 04217

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And a Selectmen’s Office?


1893’s town meeting was held in Odeon Hall for the first time.


The town paid Elmer D. Cole, Cole Block owner, $75.00 for rent of the hall until April 1, 1893.


Up to this point, voters had not approved renting an office for selectmen.


In 1893 there is no indication that the town paid E.D. Cole office rent for the selectmen although they quite obviously took over an office in the Cole Block. The selectmen paid W.S. Parker $3.50 for window shade for office and paid Cole $3.00 for a table for office.